Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger's sorry ... so are we

Today's Tiger Woods event was an interesting lesson in the modern realities of celebrity-sports journalism.

Woods read a 13-minute prepared statement, but otherwise allowed no other coverage and took no questions. He selected who could cover the event and how they could cover it. Sports journalists rankled at the conditions (the Golf Writers Association of America 'boycotted' the event), but as expected, just about everyone with a pad, pen or microphone tuned in and many carried it live. (In his live blog of the statement, Cameron Morfit of wonderfully called it a "non-boycott boycott of this non-press conference press conference"). Immediately after the statement ended, the speculation, gossip and opinion started popping up in sports media across the world.

It would have shown some real guts (and some say real stupidity) for sports journalists to turn their backs like the GWAA wanted to do and ignore the event. Yes, journalists shouldn't cover press conferences with all those stipulations, and yes, Woods didn't tell us anything we probably already didn't know (except the ONE thing people were most interested in--when he might return to golf).

But if you're in the sports media you MUST (underline, exclamation point) cover the thing, which means giving in and doing it Tiger's way. It's not pleasant being held hostage by overpaid, self-gratifying athletes and coaches who have a very deep rooted sense of entitlement (as Tiger thankfully acknowledged was part of his problem). But at the same time, the sports media have aided and abetted in this process. By hanging on every word, televising every image, and blogging every moment, they simply add more fuel to the fire that is celebrity sports journalism. The sports media turn an athlete or coach into a household name, talk endlessly about him/her, then wait for the (usually inevitable) crash and burn. Then we wring hands, become indignant and wonder how someone like Woods could be so ... human.

I'm not trying to let Tiger off the hook, but rather suggest that he didn't do it alone. Athletes and the sports media seemed to be trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle: 1) athlete becomes good 2) sports media build him/her up 3) athlete becomes uber-celebrity 4) athlete proves human and falls 5) sports media tear him/her down. That's the way it works in today's 365/24/7 sports media world.

I'm not suggesting that things are going to change nor do I have any suggestions as to how they could. But as I sit today and watch Tiger repeat the same words over and over on almost every sports media outlet in existence, it sure makes me wish for the good ol' days when athletes' private lives were private and they were measure solely by what they did in the arena.


Blogger Will C. said...

I just wrote a post myself about Tiger and I couldn't agree more about how the media has built him up to be this incredible person and is now slamming him for his mistakes. However, as frustrating as it may be listening to what Woods is saying, he is going about it the right way given how the media is covering him. Woods needs to take baby steps in rebranding himself. Giving more to charity and controlling his temper tantrums on the golf course are two ways he can help reestablish his once clean image.

8:47 PM  

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